One of SacredSpace102fm's popular podcasts from our archives, an interview with the late Fr John Cribben OMI from Shanagolden in West Limerick. Fr John spent his ministry working in Rio de Janario and shares his vocation story with our listeners in this interview.
Born on 29 October 1936, Shannagolden, Co. Limerick, Fr Cribbin studied at Shannagolden National School, St. Senan's and St. Munchin's College, Limerick. He completed his studies at University College Dublin in 1958 (Philosophy), and Piltown, Co. Kilkenny (Theology). He was ordained to the priesthood on 24 September 1961 and arrived in Brazil on 15 November 1962. He was one of the founders of an Oblate mission in the town of São Simão (Jataí Diocese), Goiás State, in the interior of Brazil.
On 24 November 1966 he was called to work in the city of Rio de Janeiro (São José parish). In the mid 1970s he was nominated to coordinate the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro's pastoral work in the West Zone of the city, an area that included half of Rio's population and 64 favelas (shanty towns) at the time. His work involved setting up and organizing local residents' associations in each favela, identifying potential leaders and training them in community organisations to deal with problems such as the lack of light, water, sewage, drainage and health facilities.
Fr. John Cribbin´s parish included nine churches which he himself helped to build and design, including one located inside a prison compound. Most of the churches have smaller community centres attached to them where courses such as needle work and home crafts are held. Instruction is also given aimed at improving the level of hygiene and health of the local population. Literacy classes, as well as courses for preparing students for admission to technical colleges and universities are also offered. There are plans in the near future to offer free computer courses for some of the poor younger members of the parish in order to better their chances in the local work market.
On 10 July 1989 Fr. Cribbin received the Pedro Ernesto Medal, the highest civic honour awarded by the Rio de Janeiro city legislature in recognition of his outstanding services to members of the underprivileged population of the city's West Zone.
In March 1995 he gave a welcome address on behalf of all the Irish missionaries in Brazil to the then President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, during her State visit to Brazil that year. In July 2001 the Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Mr. Bertie Ahern T.D. paid a visit to Fr. Cribbin's parish to inaugurate a Community Hall co-funded by Ireland Aid, and on 28 March 2004 President Mary McAleese inaugurated a new community Centre during a visit to his parish.
Following a unanimous vote by the 42 members of the House of Representative of the Municipality of Rio, elected representative Adilson Pires conferred the title of Honorary Citizen of Rio de Janeiro to Limerick man Fr. John Cribbin O.M.I., during an emotional ceremony attend by over 300 guests on 21 August 2004. The event took place at Fr. Cribbin's parish in Magalhães Bastos on the outskirts of Rio where he has served the local community for the past 38 years.
Originally broadcast 9th August 2010.